Kid From Dodge City

First Appearance: Kid From Dodge City #1 (July 1957).
Appearances: Kid from Dodge City #1-2, Two-Gun Kid #45.
Years Active: 1870s?

The Kid from Dodge City is actually Jess Wayne. He is one of the "crossdraw wizards," and is renowned across the West (at least, in his own appearances he is) as one of the fastest guns alive. He is, naturally, a good sort, willing to risk his life to help others, and when he wins a shooting competition (which he entered anonymously) he gives the winnings to the man who helped save his life. When offered a sheriff's badge in one story, as a temptation to help settle a lawless town, he declines, on the grounds that "My guns would only bring you trouble, Mayor! Settled here, all the gunnies hounding after me for my gun rep would come here!"

That one sentence sums up the Kid from Dodge City stories, for they, more than any other Atlas strip I know of, emphasize the loneliness of the life of the outlaw. The Kid from Dodge City is not a happy-go-lucky wanderer. He is hounded by the law, by bounty hunters looking to bring him in, and by "rannies" looking to earn a reputation as a fast gun. In one story, when the Kid is outdrawn by an old man, the Kid is overjoyed, for "I'm going to spread the word that YOU beat me to the trigger! AT LAST I'VE LOST MY GUN REP!" The Kid says this with a broad smile, for his gun rep has brought him nothing but trouble and misery, with continual challenges and consequent woundings and deaths. The old man, of course, orders the Kid not to spread the word, for he was once like the Kid, and he grew weary of that life and just wanted to be left alone. The Kid agrees to this and resumes his wandering.

While the Kid from Dodge City stories are in many ways typical Westerns, they're done with a certain amount of depth that many another Atlas Western lacked.

The Kid's origin is somewhat straightforward and traditional in the Western way. He was

born under the Western sky and the prairie was his cradle. He knew how to ride before he knew how to walk. His schoolroom was the wide open spaces...and his teachers were soldiers, pioneers and Indians...from his mother, Jess acquired patience, understanding and the desire to help those who needed help...from his father, Jess inherited the alert eye, the steady hand and the coolness that is the difference between life and death in a six-gun showdown...and all thru (sic) his boyhood, Jess was guided and encouraged by his father to develop the natural gift of the fast draw...
Unfortunately, his father wants Jess to become a Sheriff, but his mother disagrees:
Father Wayne: "The West needs lawmen with the gun-savvy that Jess has, Martha...else these frontiers will stay wild an' outlaw-infested forever."
Mother Wayne: "But I don't want him to take lives...I want him to be a doctor and save lives!"
Father Wayne: "He doesn't have to go to medical school to do that! With a sheriff's star on his chest an' two guns strapped on his hips, he can save more lives than a hundred doctors!"
Unfortunately for Thomas Wayne--sorry, Will "Whiplash" Wayne--Jess wants to be a doctor, and when he's given his father's six-guns and Sheriff's star on his twenty-first birthday and is offered the job of Sheriff of Dodge City, he rejects them, causing his father much pain. Jess is about to leave for medical school when he sees his father get backshot by a desperado. Jess holds his father, pieta-style, and is told, "If you had been wearin' guns you could've got "Beef" Benson,' I wouldn't be lyin' here in the dirt!" (Thanks, Dad.)

Jess is convinced his father is right, and after the verdict comes back that his father is paralyzed, his mother offers him the guns his father gave him. Jess takes them, and goes in search of the bad guys who got his father. He finds them and disarms them with his crossdraw, turns them over to the lawmen, and then rides off in search of good deeds to do. In various stories he is, or is not, a Sheriff, or the Sheriff of Dodge City, depending (apparently) on the story's writer.

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